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  • Thursday, July 28, 2005


    The two faces of Cheri Pierson Yecke

    We will start with Cheri Pierson Yecke's article decrying mean old liberals commenting on conservative women's appearances:

    While healthy civic discourse involves disagreement on issues of policy, too often people are prone to bully and harass their opponents with attacks on physical appearances when they are unable to articulate a valid and logical opposing argument.

    Consider the criticisms of the president's new nominee to the Supreme Court. John Roberts has impeccable legal credentials, so what can the pundits attack? Why, the clothing of his wife and children, of course. A fashion maven in the Washington Post looked down her nose and mocked the family as "a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers." They were then duly admonished with a sniff: "Please select all attire from the commonly accepted styles of this century."

    Condoleezza Rice, our dignified secretary of state who started college at age 15 and earned a doctorate in her early 20s, is one of the most powerful women in the world.

    Nonetheless, she has been mocked and ridiculed -- not for her intellect or knowledge of international diplomacy, but for her hair. It has been likened to that of June Cleaver, but her critics are not content to stereotype her as a dowdy relic from the supposedly subservient '50s. She has also been criticized as a "dominatrix" who oozes "sex and power" for wearing fashionable boots and a fitted black coat.

    Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state whose crime was correctly interpreting Florida law in the 2000 election, was described by Time magazine columnist Margaret Carlson as Cruella De Vil. An article about Harris in the New York Times was subtitled "Mascaragate 2000," and the Washington Post suggested that she "applied her makeup with a trowel."

    And then there is Linda Tripp, whose appearance became a national joke. She looked like anyone you might bump into at the grocery store, but suddenly her looks and her weight became fodder for late-night comedians.

    Her role in revealing President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky would have made her a villain in the eyes of far-left partisans regardless of what she looked like, but for some reason her lack of a fashion-model appearance gave critics self-permission to attack with a viciousness that should have been a media embarrassment.

    The attacks were relentless and clearly demoralizing to Tripp. In one interview she said: "I didn't realize how ugly I was until I saw the pictures. I was horrified as well as the rest of the nation."

    Tripp underwent major plastic surgery to remake her physical appearance, only to receive more ridicule. According to one person: "It looks like she's had a head transplant." And that was a friend. Clearly, the stigma of "bad looks" remains even after a physical transformation.
    (links provided by me)

    Fair enough. But then this:

    The fact that women fought for many years to be taken seriously in the arenas of government and public policy makes the "lookism" attacks on successful women reveal a deep double standard -- not of men against women, but of women against their own gender.

    Where are the feminists? Their silence speaks volumes about their convictions and partisan leanings. After all, it is mainly conservative women who have been the victims of this sort of media slashing.

    Whoa there, little filly. We have gone out of our way to make fun of Jonah, the Pod, Brent Baker, Gary Bauer, the Derb, Joel Mowbray, Mitch McConnell, Tom DeLay, Steve Forbes, John Bolton, and Ann Coulter. All of them conservative men. So don't be saying that we haven't been fair.

    But let's talk about your face. Which one should we make fun of?

    "Nothing could be more clear. The federal government needs to stop micro-managing state affairs, and decreasing its role in education would be a good place to start." So said current Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke, in a speech to the Education Leaders Council Conference in Dallas, Texas, in September 1997. At the time, Yecke was a member of the Virginia State Board of Education, and was among those who had successfully opposed an attempt by the Clinton administration to adopt national tests for students in America's public schools.

    In another argument in her speech against Clinton's national test proposal, Yecke quoted a section of a federal law that says, "The establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the authority of the Federal Government over education." But if we flash forward to the education policies emerging during the Bush administration, and Yecke's role in implementing them, her position on Washington's involvement in local public schools seems to be more a matter of partisanship than principle.


    Yecke has played an active role in changing education policies at both the federal and state levels. Shortly after President Bush was elected, he appointed her to be director of teacher quality and school choice at the U.S. Department of Education. In January of this year, after Governor Pawlenty had named Yecke to the state's top education post, federal education commissioner Rod Paige said, "Cheri Yecke has played a critical role in our efforts to implement the No Child Left Behind Act."

    Once in Minnesota, Yecke helped ram through the new reading and math standards required to get No Child Left Behind funding. This September, almost exactly six years after she decried encroaching federal involvement in education, she praised the act as "a strong law, a morally righteous law." (A spokesperson for Yecke at the education department did not follow through on a pledge to get a statement from the commissioner for this story.)

    It's now clear that Yecke's earlier objection to Clinton's education policies had less to do with federal intervention than with who is doing the intervening. Ironically, the clamoring for more local autonomy in education stems from a nationally coordinated, ideologically driven movement that seeks to deprive public schools of stable funding and force them to compete in the private market. And Yecke is clearly a part of that movement.

    This explains why Yecke has frequently stated that the amount of money a school receives does not necessarily affect its performance, and why she readily acquiesced to Pawlenty's budget cuts in education during the last session. It is why her 1997 speech was reprinted as the cover story in the February/March 1998 edition of Intellectual Ammunition, a public policy magazine published by the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank based in Chicago, whose education philosophy is prominently displayed on its website: "Government schools are islands of socialism in a sea of competition and choice."

    So which face is it, Cheri? This one or this one.

    Notice we didn't say anything about the hair. And we're not going to.

    Talk about the hair, I mean.

    Because that would be wrong. Just as wrong as this.

    Very wrong.


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